The Gentle Mastery of Christ
Gentleness. Isn’t it true that we all long to be treated gently? Isn’t gentleness what we’re searching for when we rush to escape the harshness of this world for the calm of our homes, our safest communities, our dearest relationships? For me, the word gentle conjures up images of baby lambs snuggling their mamas or the way I cradled my newborns or my own mama’s voice as she made the world make sense to me. Ok so, apparently gentleness brings to my mind a mother’s love–the way in which women know to cradle and care for their beloved. And knowing that, it’s even more beautiful for me to see that this is how Jesus describes his personal invitation to each of us.
When first reading through today’s gospel, I was delighted to see that the passage ended in some of my favorite verses from the Bible: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). This beautiful invitation straight from the mouth of Jesus has calmed my heart/nerves/mind countless times throughout my life.
And then I was intrigued to see that the subsection for these few verses is titled, “The Gentle Mastery of Christ,” a phrase that I had never specifically heard before. Yet, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Christ is calling everyone who “labor[s] and are burdened” to come to him, and then he tells us why: for the Divine purpose of giving us rest! Christ goes on to invite us to come and learn from Him because He is “meek and humble of heart” (incredible to hear Divinity speak of themselves as such!). Then, He again emphasizes that we will indeed find rest for ourselves in Him. He specifically describes his burden as “light,” which would have felt like a direct contrast to His Jewish listeners' experiences with the rigorous Jewish laws to which they maintained strict adherence. This gentle Jesus is inviting all who can hear His voice to come to Him so He can relieve our burdens.
As a life-long perfectionist, I have often wondered how Christ’s burden is light if He calls us to live like He did, in perfect love and humility and sacrifice. Yet, I think the answer must be found in grace, which God offers to us freely and abundantly. God’s grace means that there is nothing we can do that is beyond God’s love, nothing at all that can separate us from the love of Christ, nothing of our own or others’ doing. And what could be more gentle, more welcoming and caring than that kind of unfathomable Divine love?
Though written hundreds of years earlier, today’s reading from Psalm 145 echoes Jesus’ words in Matthew: “The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” I pray the scriptures in today’s Mass readings reveal to you the gentleness of our God and encourage you as much as they do me. And in response to these beautiful promises of God, may we all find ourselves able to join with the Psalmist in saying, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.”